When my husband, Dan, and I were first married, we bought 16 run down acres of rusty JFG cans, eroded gullies, a small creek, and a wooded ridge.
Being young and energetic, we gathered all the trash, filled the gullies, covered the whole thing with 25 dump truck loads of dirt, and have been here ever since. Living here, we have discovered that if you listen and pay attention, an old farm has a lot to teach you.
Our farm taught us that you can certainly plow, plant, water and weed a very large garden; but you can also skip most of the labor and buy your produce at the Farmers Market.
The farm showed us that you can raise cattle, but cows jump the fence while you are in Florida. If your cow is hit by a vehicle, you are responsible for damages. You can work all winter to build a trail up your ridge, but when you get almost to the top and find an insurmountable rock ledge, you learn to map out your trail ahead of time. Your children can have great fun catching crawdads in the creek, but when the 4-year-old toddles up with a bucket full of an angry snapping turtle, you learn to pay more attention.
All these lessons have been very useful. During retirement, the farm taught us more. Years ago, Dan built a two-story workshop to accommodate his multitude of useful tools. A man who is always busy, after two weeks of retirement Dan decided he wanted another useful tool – a sawmill. At first it was wonderful. We spent hours outside, he with his mill, me with my gardens or tramping the acreage. Then a problem appeared.
Inadvertently, Dan had begun a business. Hearing of the sawmill, friends dropped by; next woodworkers and builders appeared. Dan needed a bigger, better sawmill. That sawmill required a concrete slab and a shed. Dan built a solar powered wood kiln, and after that another, larger wood-powered kiln was needed. A front loader appeared to help lift the lumber, and then a Bobcat became necessary. All the men were having great fun, but the sawmill and all its necessary pieces of equipment loomed perilously close to the pool. Oh dear.
We needed demarcation lines. The equipment and sawmill area became Dan Land. Dan Land could not extend past the pool. My part of the farm became Cindyville. Cindyville included the yard, and my hiking paths around the farm. To solidify this agreement, I had signs made – “Welcome to Dan Land”, and “Entering Dan Land”.
It’s been a roaring success. Dan Land has become an attraction – newcomers are given a tour, equipment is shown, wood recently sawed admired. One friend suggested that Dan’s useful tools plus the sawmill, could become a Day Care for Men.
Peace now reigns on our old farm. Dan saws, I garden, friends come over. But we’re still listening and paying attention. The farm undoubtedly has lessons yet to teach.
Cindy Arp retired from Knox County Schools as a teacher and librarian. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. And she goes hiking once a week – even in a forest fire.